This recipe is written in Jamie Oliver speak. That is, this salad is all about personalization and improvisation. The amounts are intentionally left a little loosey-goosey so you can tweak it to your palate and not get mired down in tedious measuring. That said, we’ve included some approximates for those who prefer pointed direction. The amounts can easily be scaled up or down depending on how many servings you desire—including, of course, just one. You can play fast and loose with the ingredients, too, as the seasons change. Go on. Embrace your inner Naked Chef.–Jamie Oliver


Well…aside from chopping veg and getting your mise-en-place, you can’t. Let Jamie Oliver expain it. “Warm salads can be blooming amazing or complete disasters. First, you have to get your hungry guests around the table before you plate up, so as soon as their bums are on the chairs, you’re tossing the warm ingredients in with the arugula leaves. Boom, boom, boom on a plate and it’s in front of them”. It’s true. Leave it too long and everything wilts and cools. The point of a warm salad is to let the different textures and temperatures play off each other in an extrordinary way.

A plate of warm arugula salad -- caramelized red onions, arugula, shaved Parmesan, and toasted pine nuts with a balsamic drizzle.

Warm Arugula Salad

5 / 3 votes
Jamie Oliver’s warm arugula salad is easy-peasy and “scrummy”, as the man himself says. Warmed and caramelized red onions, pine nuts, and bacon warm the arugula just enough. It’s easy. And spectacular.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories377 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 2 medium red onions
  • 8 slices pancetta or bacon
  • A couple of glugs olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • Handful of pine nuts, (about 1/4 cup)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 big handfuls of arugula or any nice salad leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar, (up to 1/4 cup or so)
  • Chunk of Parmesan cheese


  • Peel, halve, and quarter each onion, then cut each quarter in half. This should give you 8 wedges per onion.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and fry the pancetta or bacon until crisp. Move to a plate. Add 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil to drippings in the skillet. Add the thyme leaves, onions, and pinenuts along with a pinch of salt and toss around gently. Cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and sweet (but not black!).
  • Return the pancetta or bacon to the skillet and toss to coat. Then throw everything into a salad bowl on top of the arugula or any nice salad leaves. Drizzle generously with balsamic vinegar—this will make a natural dressing as it mixes with the olive oil. Have everyone already sitting at the table by the time you shave some Parmesan over the top—you can use a vegetable peeler to do this.
Happy Days with the Naked Chef

Adapted From

Happy Days with the Naked Chef

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 377 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 11 gFat: 32 gSaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 34 mgSodium: 422 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2002 Jamie Oliver. Photo © 2002 David Loftus. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This salad was easy to prepare and assemble. Rather than making this dish for four people, I made it for one (me). Though the measurements aren’t exact, I liked the improvisation because I could scale down the recipe. For the bacon/pancetta preparation, I wasn’t sure what to do with the leftover grease, so rather than tossing it, I just poured less olive oil into the pan for the onion, thyme, and pine nuts.

This recipe is easy to play fast and loose with in your kitchen. The amounts come down to how much you want of the ingredients involved. With all kinds of textures and flavour combinations, this salad is bound to please almost everyone. Remove the thyme leaves from their stems before you toss them into the pan, so you won’t have to pull sticks off of the plate later.

I used two handfuls of arugula, and two handfuls of leafy mixed greens. Be sure to have your guests seated before you serve because the warm ingredients will cause the salad greens to wilt very quickly. Instead of tossing the salad, I used tongs to serve folks right out of the bowl.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been making wilted lettuce salads for years and this is the best yet! I usually use cider or sherry vinegar but my 18-year old basalmic was delicious instead. I also added a sliced pear.

    1. Lovely to hear, Audrey. We, too, really like the sturdy yet slightly sweet taste of balsamic, it really stands up to the peppery arugula. And love the pear! Next time you toss that in, consider swapping walnuts for the pine nuts. And then when it gets cooler again, slip in some chunks of roasted winter squash in place of the pear. This is one of those basic blueprint recipes that takes well to a little freespirited tweaking. Let us know your discoveries!

      1. Thanks, Renee…I happen to have a butternut squash in the pantry and that sounds like an excellent idea.